Wanted: Help with pre-school expenses, support for single parents

MEMBERS of Parliament called for improvements to be made to the social service sector, during the debate on the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) budget yesterday.

Of the 14 MPs who spoke, six focused on pre-schools, asking for services to be made more affordable and for the manpower crunch to be eased.

Others wanted more help for people with disabilities and single parents, and better coordination in the delivery of social services.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) said it was important to attract and retain pre-school staff, as insufficient manpower limits the rate at which more childcare centres can be opened.

Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) called for more training opportunities and clear progression pathways for teachers.

Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) raised concerns about how operators were using their additional subsidies - a point also brought up by Ms Lee, who asked MSF to consider capping fees.

"Otherwise, each time the Government increases the grants, the operators will seize the opportunity to up their charges. Parents do not benefit," she said.

Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong suggested that operators share resources to increase their productivity.

His ideas included housing several operators under one roof so they can share facilities, and clustering them to share back-end office support.

Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) and Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) called for more help for adults with disabilities.

Noting the lack of day activity centres and caregivers for them, Ms Phua said: "New day activity centres can be filled even before they officially open."

Mr Png asked for an update on an idea in the 2012-2016 Enabling Masterplan to open eldercare centres for adults with special needs.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) and Ms Lee Li Lian (Punggol East) wanted benefits for married parents to be extended to single ones.

For instance, single mothers should get 16 weeks of paid maternity leave like married ones, instead of eight.

Said Ms Lee Li Lian: "The state should recognise them as parents regardless of their marital status. Their parental responsibilities and their children's needs are the same... This is not about encouraging more single parents, but ensuring better and fair support for the children."

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing will respond to the queries when the debate continues today.


This article was first published on Mar 13, 2015.
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